David Courtwright Ph.D. ’79 and Shelby Miller first met when he was a graduate student in history at Rice and she was the art librarian on campus. Their individual and shared experiences at Rice — and later as parents of an Owl — inspired them to pledge $300,000 toward scholarship funding as part of the Rice Annual Fund’s 24-Hour Challenge.
“We’re both very grateful for what Rice gave us, including the chance to meet one another and marry,” says David, who is now a presidential professor emeritus at the University of North Florida. “We want our pledge to draw additional funds to the 24-Hour Challenge, and we’re especially motivated to give to Rice in a way that honors people important to us.”
David and Shelby are funding three need-based scholarships. The first, the Courtwright-Miller Scholarship, is for humanities majors. David studied history, Shelby worked with art historians. Their son, Andrew Miller Courtwright ’01, majored in philosophy — and in cell biology, ultimately becoming a transplant pulmonologist in Philadelphia. “This scholarship honors our family’s long association with the humanities at Rice,” David explains.
Shelby, who began her career at the University of St. Thomas, became Rice’s art librarian in 1969, when John and Dominique de Menil established the Institute for the Arts. The Institute organized exhibitions and film series at the “Art Barn” near the Rice Stadium. “Mrs. de Menil opened the eyes of so many students to art, film, photography, religion, ecumenical studies — her range was just tremendous,” Shelby says. “Our gift celebrates her legacy.”
The third person David and Shelby are honoring is Stephen Fox, whom David befriended during his graduate-student years at Rice. Fox is known regionally, nationally and internationally for his work as an author, architectural historian, fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, lecturer at both Rice and the University of Houston, and much more. “We encourage friends of Rice, alumni, students, faculty and staff who know and love Stephen Fox to share in our generosity,” David says. “Stephen is a Houston treasure.”
David and Shelby chose to establish need-based scholarships in part because Fox and de Menil embraced opportunities to champion civil and human rights. “Throughout their careers, they both made a conscious effort to go beyond elites keen on art or architecture,” David says. “They addressed a broader and more racially diverse community and range of concerns. And that’s part of the reason we are proud to honor them.”
With generous support from the Rice Annual Fund, the university continues to offer Sarah and other Owls the best in financial aid, residential college life, student activities, teaching and research. Learn more about how your gift to the Rice Annual Fund can make an impact.